Language

Cognitive Daily

Category archives for Language

There is a growing body of evidence that very young children — too young even to talk — still know plenty of words. When our kids were very young, it was quite clear that they knew the meanings of many more words than they could actually produce. When they couldn’t speak at all, they understood…

Psychologists often complain that neuroscientists get a disproportionate share of the glory when the mainstream media reports on their studies. It seems to some that an important new psychology study is often neglected or ignored entirely, while neuroscience studies of similar importance are hailed as “groundbreaking.” What is it about pictures of brains that are…

You might expect someone’s cultural background to influence their speech, their appearance, their musical tastes, and the foods they like. You’d probably also expect culture to have an impact on values and beliefs, on stories and traditions. But what about their bodies — not just physical features like skin color or hair texture, but attitude…

I don’t need words to think about the shape of a car, or how to throw a football, or the taste of a chocolate chip cookie. In fact, things like that are probably easier to think about without using language. That’s why the strong form of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis — that language is necessary for…

A particular source of dread for politicians is how to respond to negative campaigning or other information impugning their character. By responding, they might only bring attention to an issue that voters hadn’t even recognized: “Contrary to my opponent’s claims, I have stopped beating my wife, and I haven’t consumed more than a fifth of…

Two facts are true about young children: they sleep a lot more than adults, and they learn language at an astonishing rate. How can they learn so much when they’re sleeping so much of the time? Perhaps sleep itself enhances learning. In fact, a number of studies suggest that naps actually enhance learning in adults.…

When you know something, is that different from remembering? Both types of thoughts are clearly part of the memory system, but is there really any difference between the two concepts? We often use the two terms nearly interchangeably: I might say “I remember Suzanne had her purse when we left the restaurant because I saw…

When we first moved to the small suburban town we still live in, we quickly realized we needed to buy a second car. Nora and Jim were just one and two and a half years old, only barely beginning to understand language. After we made our purchase, sometimes we drove in the old car (a…

More on whether a name is destiny

There was a lot of buzz online a couple months back when an article entitled “Moniker Maladies” made what seemed to many to be a startling claim: Baseball players strike out more often when their names start with “K”; Students with the initials “C” and “D” get worse grades than others. Actually, this effect, known…

The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis — stated in its strongest form — claims that language determines thoughts: if a language doesn’t have a means of expressing a particular idea, then people speaking that language can’t even conceive of that idea. This strong form has long since been rejected: There are plenty of thoughts we can have without…